ALDRICH, THOMAS BAILEY (1836–1907). Thomas Bailey Aldrich,
known chiefly as the author of The Story of a Bad Boy (1869), edited Every
Saturday (1866–1874) and The Atlantic Monthly (1881–1890) and also
wrote poems, short stories, and five novels. Born in Portsmouth, New
Hampshire, Aldrich lived for brief periods in the seaports of New York and
New Orleans, finally settling in Boston. The sea was important to Aldrich
and recurs as a minor topic in some of his writings. In her book Crowding
Memories (1920), his wife describes her husband as a “fair-weather sailor”
(65) and recounts how he was seasick for eleven days on his first ocean
crossing in 1875.
The Story of a Bad Boy is an account of Aldrich’s youth in Portsmouth,
called Rivermouth in the novel. He recounts his seasickness when sailing
from New Orleans to Rivermouth and in a later chapter, “The Cruise of
the Dolphin,” narrates how he and three friends row to Sandpeep Island,
the last island in the Piscataqua River before the open sea. After hours of
exploring and playing, they send Binny Wallace back to the boat for food
and he is accidentally set adrift without oars in the midst of an approaching
squall. Townspeople later find his drowned body.
Aldrich’s strong affection for the sea is glimpsed in his poem “Sea Longings” (1896), where he acknowledges that the first sounds he heard were
from the sea and that inland “life languishes.” He wrote about twenty sea
poems in all, which fall into three categories: those celebrating his natural
ties to the sea (“Piscataqua River” [1861], “In Youth, beside the Lonely
Sea” [1896]), those that use the sea as the start for musings not necessarily
about the sea (“On Lynne Terrace” [1896]), and miscellaneous poems dealing with some sea event (“Seadrift” [1863], “Lost at Sea” [1896], “Alec
Yeaton’s Son” [1896]).